WAK : The Present Tattoo Industry In Sarawak

What is your perspective towards the tattoo industry in Sarawak today? How has it progress? As for me, I have very little knowledge about tattoos, I have limited contact about tattoos industry but I love history and I absolutely adored things with stories behind and that is one of the reason I’m here today.

So basically this talk is organized by Blackout Tattoo Kuching, to share their insights and their knowledge about tattoos from the beginning; concentrating on Iban and Dayak tattoos which specially need to be preserved. 

with the tattoo specialists

So hows does tattoo industry progress throughout the 10 years? 

Having a tattoo today as compared to the past 10 years is more common, they are more well perceived. Unlike the olden days, people used to link up tattoo with gangster-ism, parents will yell at you or even hit you hard if they see you having a tattoo or intended to get one. However, 10 years later, tattoo is more acceptable, they are more to perceived as a piece of art rather than something totally negative. I am not saying that tattoo is widely accepted now but as compared to the past 10 years, it is much better.

Awareness and hygiene for the tattoo industry is getting better as well. Tattooist tend to be more knowledgeable and able to give more solid advise to the customers before they commit. Hygiene is something that everyone is very strict of. If you head to a tattoo studio with very poor hygiene, you might need to change one. Why is hygiene so important in the tattoo industry? The needles, the clothes and ink used are all tapped into your skin. If hygiene is bad, chances of getting health issue is higher because you never know who is the previous customer and how they dispose the tools used for the previous customer. Be alert!

What is the concern towards the tattoo industry in Sarawak today?

  1. Tattoo industry in Sarawak is way too behind. They came across the tattoo culture in overseas, in terms of machinery tools and mindset; we are way behind. A piece of tattoo art can be sealed at a price of 10 times higher than what the tattoo artist in Sarawak offered. The value of tattoo art is higher outside Sarawak.
  2. Borneo Tattoo preservation. We are afraid that no one inherit our real traditional/tribal/warrior/borneo tattoo. Some tattooist shared that nowadays people just tattoo whatever that they think its nice or maybe a fusion. They just mix and match the art instead of getting a proper traditional tattoo. Trend like this will lose the originality of the tattoos.
  3. Things are not meant to be tattooed anyhow. Some art are meant to serve a purpose or meaning and it is not meant for everyone. For example the head hunters tattoo “tagulun” (someone please help me with the correct name and spelling) is a tattoo symbolized the act and power of the head hunters. These tattoos are believed to have powers in the form or charms or even a taboo. If ones is not supposed to have such tattoos but they insisted, bad things will even happen to them or the people around them. The tattoo have the real design and the meaning behind it so do your homework or ask for advise before deciding one. 

How to improve tattoo industry in Sarawak?

  1. Educate the customers. Art is a constant change. Tattooist do not change or restricts the customers’ idea but they can educate and give proper advise. Consult them, know their motive of getting the tattoo and advice accordingly
  2. Be an apprentice. Taking an apprentice path to guide new tattooist the meaning of tattoo arts especially to all the Borneo tattoos that need to be preserved. Borneo tattoo arts will not stay unless the skill and knowledge have been pass on. So, they need to starting teaching people so that tattoo culture flows.

What is their advice to the customers before getting a tattoo?

Know your tattooist. Know them as in know their background, know their portfolio and the art they have delivered. Get a consultation and be very strict to the hygiene steps they took. Do not get a freelance tattooist, go to a professional one for all the right reasons.

What is your vision of our tattoo industry in the next 5 years? Some mentioned they will like to have a tattoo museum to showcase the history of tattoo and to educate more people about tattoo arts. To make tattoo artist a more recognized career.

For me, a person who appreciates history and culture; I certainly think a tattoo museum will be a very educational one. All the tribal arts, all the warrior tattoos and the meanings behind, who to ask if you want to know right? We commonly only know the “Bunga Terung” tattoo arts that symbolized adult hood and maturity, the crab and tree tattoos that symbolized life, but what about others? There are tonnes of different tattoo arts with different meanings that yet to be taught.

Whats the tattoo art that you are most curious of?